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SIX RATHER UNUSUAL PROPOSITIONS. SIX PROPOSITIONS. ABOUT. “Critical threats” to the United States. Foreign policy goals % saying “very important”. 1. Terrorism generally has only limited direct effects. --60 Minutes (CBS), 16 February 2003.

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Six propositions




Critical threats to the united states

“Critical threats” to the United States

Foreign policy goals saying very important

Foreign policy goals% saying “very important”

Six propositions

1. Terrorism generally has only limited direct effects

60 minutes cbs 16 february 2003

--60 Minutes (CBS), 16 February 2003

  • Michael Moore: The chances of any of us dying in a terrorist incident is very, very, very small.

  • Bob Simon: No one sees the world like that.

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International Terrorism and Lightning

Previous high: 329 in 1985 when Air India plane blown up by Sikhs

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Nuclear weapons:

The mass production and widespread distribution of increasingly sophisticated and increasingly powerful man‑portable weapons will greatly add to the terrorist's arsenal and the world's increasing dependence on nuclear power may provide terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

--Brian Jenkins, 1975

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Biological weapons:

rarely, if ever, used

Aum Shinrikyo experience

spread as aerosol

explosion can destroy

storage difficult

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Chemical weapons:

World War I experience

Aum Shinrikyo in 1995: kill 12

Iraq in Halabja in 1988: 5000 dead?

Gas made war uncomfortable--to no purpose

A ton of Sarin nerve gas perfectly delivered under absolutely ideal conditions over a heavily populated area against unprotected people could cause between 3000 and 8000 deaths. Under slightly less ideal circumstances--if there was a moderate wind or if the sun was out, for example--the death rate would be only one-tenth as great

A ton of nerve gas or five tons of mustard gas could produce heavy casualties among unprotected people in an open area of one kilometer square. Even for nerve gas this would take the concentrated delivery into a rather small area of about 300 heavy artillery shells or seven 500-pound bombs

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Radiological weapons:

panic only

9 11 aberration or harbinger

9/11: aberration or harbinger?

Lockerbie 1988

Oklahoma City 1995

Aum Shinrikyo 1995

But WWI, WTC 1993

al-Qaeda capacity?

I think therefore they are 2003

I think, therefore they are, 2003

The greatest threat is from al-Qaeda cells in the US that we have not yet identified.

al-Qaeda maintains the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the US with little warning.

That threat is increasing partly because of the publicity surrounding the DC sniper shootings and the anthrax letter attacks.

--Robert Mueller February 11, 2003 testimony

I think therefore they are 2005

I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing. (bolded)

FBI's counter-terrorist accomplishments in 2004

1. They picked up evidence in that year that bad guys had conducted surveillance of financial targets and called an expensive orange alert.

2. The Brits picked up some bad guys, and the FBI dutifully set up a "task force" to see if there was a "U.S. nexus" to these guys.

3. After receiving information "suggesting" an attack was being planned "possibly timed to coincide with the presidential election," they set up another "task force" consisting of "thousands of FBI personnel." Over the course of six months, these thousands of spooks found no evidence not only of a plot but even of whether "an operation was indeed being planned." On the positive side, however, he is "certain that the FBI's tremendous response to the threat [not "suggested threat" or "imagined threat"] played an integral role in disrupting any operational plans that may have been underway."

4. They made three (3) arrests. One was of a "spiritual leader" in Virginia who may actually have been worth arresting. Another was of a guy in Minneapolis who admitted to doing some sniping in Afghanistan and Chechnya in the 1990s. And the third was arrested on money laundering charges "connected" to a "possible" plot to kill a Pakistani diplomat.

I think, therefore they are, 2005

--Robert Mueller February 16, 2005 testimony

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2. The costs of terrorism very often come mostly from the fear and consequent reaction (or overreaction) it characteristically inspires

9 11 economic costs human costs opportunity costs

9/11: economic costs

human costs

opportunity costs

Clinton and embassy bombings 1998

Clinton and embassy bombings,1998

9/11: economic costs

human costs

opportunity costs

If terrorists force us to redirect resources away from sensible programs and future growth, in order to pursue unachievable but politically popular levels of domestic security, then they have won an important victory that mortgages our future.

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3. The terrorism industry is a major part of the terrorism problem

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An incentive to pass along vague and unconfirmed threats of future violence, in order to protect themselves from criticism in the event of another attack.




Risk entrepreneurs

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Juval Aviv, Staying Safe New York: HarperResource, 2004Hardcover: The Complete Terrorism Survival Guide, Juris Publishing, 2003

Stay away from crowds

Treat official reassurances circumspectly

Ask yourself where you stand in the hierarchy of terrorist targets

Determine whether someone is paying too much attention to one particular thing

Keep in mind that a terrorist may be one of your customers

Be wary of odd-looking neighbors

Try yoga-type breathing exercises to relax

Separate small pets from large ones

Know the five primary means of assassination

Never take the first taxicab in line

In a department store or other crowded public place, be careful not to get trampled

Forgo eating food from salad bars or restaurant smorgasbords

Wash your hands after returning from an outing, especially if you used mass transit or a taxicab

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Juval Aviv, Staying Safe New York: HarperResource, 2004Hardcover: The Complete Terrorism Survival Guide, Juris Publishing, 2003

Don’t eat, drink, or smoke around mail

In a multipurpose household, designate one person as the primary mail opener

Make it a standard practice to wash with antibacterial soap immediately after touching mail

Never shake a suspect piece of mail

Avoid long waits at U.S. border crossings

Don’t exchange currency at the airport

Never park in underground garages

Avoid aisle seats on airplanes

Spend as little time at the airport as possible

Stay away from heavily glassed areas in airports

At an airport baggage carousel, position yourself near the luggage chute

Try to fly wide-body planes, because terrorists often avoid hijacking them

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The Islamists in al Qaeda, in other similar groups, and ordinary Muslims worldwide have been infected by hatred for U.S. policies toward the Muslim world. America’s support for Israel, Russia, China, India, Algeria, Uzbekistan, and others against Islamists; its protection of multiple Muslim tyrannies; its efforts to control oil policy and pricing; and its military activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula, and elsewhere—these are the sources of the infection of hatred spreading in the Islamic world….


Until those policies change, the United States has no option but an increasingly fierce military response to the forces marshaled by bin Laden, an option that will prolong America’s survival but at as yet undreamed of costs in blood, money, and civil liberties.

--Anonymous, Imperial Hubris (2004), cheery last pages

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To secure as much of our way of life as possible, we will have to use military force in the way Americans used it on the fields of Virginia and Georgia, in France and on the Pacific islands, and from skies over Tokyo and Dresden. Progress will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts. Not the fatuous body counts of Vietnam, but precise counts that will run to extremely large numbers. The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms. Killing in large number is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman‑like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertilizer plants and grain mills‑‑all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy its support base. Land mines, moreover, will be massively reintroduced to seal borders and mountain passes too long, high, or numerous to close with U.S. soldiers. As noted, such actions will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugee flows.

I would like to thank Ms. Christina Davidson who labored mightily to delete from the text excess vitriol.

--Anonymous, Imperial Hubris (2004), pp. 241-42

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Fragile, vulnerable, existential, survival

Myers: do away with our way of life

Y2K effect

Athens Olympics

Democratic convention

Republican convention

Election campaign

Presidential vote

Bernard brodie

--Bernard Brodie

As serious and potentially catastrophic as a domestic CBRN attack might prove, it is highly unlikely that it could ever completely undermine the national security, much less threaten the survival, of the United States as a nation....To take any other position risks surrendering to the fear and intimidation that is precisely the terrorist's stock in trade.


--Gilmore Commission, 1999

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4. Policies designed to deal with terrorism should focus more on reducing fear and anxiety as inexpensively as possible than on objectively reducing the rather limited dangers terrorism is likely actually to pose

Bin laden goal overreaction

Bin Laden goal: overreaction

It is easy for us to provoke and bait....All that we have to do is to send two raise a piece of cloth on which is written al‑Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses. Our policy is one of bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. The terrorist attacks cost al‑Qaeda $500,000 while the attack and its aftermath inflicted a cost of more than $500 billion on the United States.

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Get on the damn elevator! Fly on the damn plane! Calculate the odds of being harmed by a terrorist! It’s still about as likely as being swept out to sea by a tidal wave….Suck it up, for crying out loud. You’re almost certainly going to be okay. And in the unlikely event you’re not, do you really want to spend your last days cowering behind plastic sheets and duct tape? That’s not a life worth living, is it?

Watch the terrorist alert and go outside again when it falls below yellow.

--John McCain, Why Courage Matters (2004)

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Watch the terrorist alert and go outside again when it falls below yellow.

--John McCain, Why Courage Matters (2004)

Michael sivak and michael j flannagan in american scientist jan feb 2003

--Michael Sivak and Michael J. Flannagan in American Scientist, Jan-Feb 2003

  • An American's chance of being killed in one non-stop airline flight:

  • one in 13 million

  • An American’s chance of being killed while driving 11.2 miles on America's safest roads, rural interstate highways:

    one in 13 million

  • Number of 9/11-type airline crashes required to make flying as dangerous as driving the same distance on America's safest roads:

    one a month

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Risk of death for an American over a 50-year period

Botulism1 in 2,000,000

Fireworks1 in 1,000,000

Tornado1 in 50,000

Airplane crash1 in 20,000

Electrocution1 in 5,000

Firearms accident1 in 2,000

Automobile accident1 in 100

Asteroid impact1 in 6,000

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Airplane hijacking?

Cheap reassurance

Cry wolf

Keep track of predictions

Reduce costs

Check literature on witches


Risk communication

Risk communication

people tend greatly to overestimate the chances of dramatic or sensational causes of death

realistically informing people about risks sometimes only makes them more frightened

strong beliefs are very difficult to modify

a new sort of calamity tends to be taken as harbinger of future mishaps

a disaster tends to increase fears not only about that kind of danger but of all kinds

people, even professionals, are susceptible to the way risks are expressed‑‑far less likely, for example, to choose radiation therapy if told the chances of death are 32% rather than that the chances of survival are 68%

when presented with two estimations of risk from reasonably authoritative sources, people choose to embrace the high risk opinion regardless of its source; that is, there is a predilection toward alarmist responses and excessive weighting of the worst case scenario

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Average background radiation in US360 mrem per year

High end of low level radiation range10,000 total mrem

Well-known cause of cancer30,000 total mrem

Blood cell changes, infections, temporary sterility 200,000 short-term mrem

Death with days or weeks400,000 short-term mrem

Dirty bomb?


To live at 245 mrem per year

Don’t have a pacemaker

Don’t have porcelain crowns or false teeth

Don’t use a gas camping lantern

Don’t have X-rays or a CAT Scan

Don’t live in a stone, adobe brick, or concrete building

Don’t wear a luminous wristwatch

Don’t watch TV

Don’t use a computer terminal

Don’t have a smoke detector in your home

Don’t live within 50 miles of a nuclear or coal-fired power plant

Don’t consume food or water

Live in Biloxi

Don’t fly or go to airports

100 1




To live at 245 mrem per year:

Columbus 16

Denver 68

Leadville 117

1 mrem per two hours in the air

Airline crews: 100 mrem per year

Source: National Safety Council

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5. Doing nothing (or at least refraining from overreacting) after a terrorist attack is not necessarily unacceptable

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  • Lebanon 1983

  • Somalia 1993

  • World Trade Center 1993

  • Oklahoma City 1995

  • Khobar Towers 1996

  • U.S.S. Cole 2000

  • Anthrax 2001

  • Madrid 2003

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6. Despite U.S. overreaction, the campaign against terror is generally going rather well

The united states is living on borrowed time and squandering it

The United States is living on borrowed time‑‑and squandering it.

How much security is enough: when the American people can conclude that a future attack on U.S. soil will be an exceptional event that does not require wholesale changes in how they go about their lives.

The entire nation...must be organized for the long, deadly struggle against terrorism.

--Stephen Flynn

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Six propositions


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